IT Grand Prix Day 2 – No Sleep to Brooklyn, NPowering Students through education!

June 4th, 2010
by Christopher Kusek (PKGuild)

Wow, let me say that again.  Wow! Welcome to Day 2!    It’s hard to say where Day 2 begins or ends so for the benefit of solving that particular quandary… I’ll start from the moment I woke up, and I took these photos out of my hotel room window!   Isn’t it an absolutely beautiful day?!

image image

We all gathered down in the main lobby bright and early at 8:15AM (For someone who historically is on Chicago time.. that’s 7:15, WTF right?! :))

There we stood, on Camera to find out the official results of Day 1’s competitions, the battle so to speak as we competed at KIPP DC as our Red team Vs the Blue Team (redvsblue) and the Gold and Green teams duked it out at a training facility ByteBack teaching the folks as part of “Back on my Feet”.    So David Elfassy, standing before us delivers the final word.. Red Team Wins! Green Team Wins! Wow! We won! (I was a little shocked, because I –loved- the Powerpoint template which the blue team used!)  However, now.. what do we do? We need to have a Tie-Breaker! Oh my!

Tie-Breaker Challenge

“Find someone running Windows 7 and ask them what their favorite feature is.”

So, we began our hunt to find someone who met this criteria!   Thinking on our feet.. we thought “Let’s head to the closest starbucks!”  As there was one in the hotel there, but no one seemed to have a Laptop!  Add to that… we had 36 minutes to complete this challenge – The first one to complete it, get a photo and get it uploaded would become the winner!

We walked a few blocks away (as I pulled my laptop out and started staging a blog post… :)) To the next nearest Starbucks only to be presented with the following challenge.

  • “I’m sorry I’m running Windows XP”
  • “No.  I have a mac.”
    • Daniel: “You know you can run Windows 7 on a mac!”
    • MacUser: *scorn* *disgust* :)
  • “I’m sorry, no” which was more or less the “I don’t know what you’re selling, but I’m not buying!”

So, this was our first set of challenges… at which point… I did a refresh on the IT Grand Prix site only to find that… they had already posted their Photo! – We were done for! (and we headed back)

Focusing on the fact that the post in a ‘technicality’ only had a photo and not any expression of their ‘favorite’ feature, we were still game and looking for that next Windows 7 User – When qualifying this fact, we were happily informed that they not only got that.. They got it on film! (Go Scott the Videographer! :))

So, taking our lumps so to speak, we offered to castrate ourselves at their feet in respect of their utter domination of the circumstances :)

At this point, we began our Challenge for the day, which involved another puzzle to sort out.  We were given a contact we needed to find, and an obscure formulae to figure out, simple enough!   Well, after careful calculation and rigorous battle (and using the power of LinkedIn instead of solving an actual puzzle…) we were able to find our next destination to go to!

NPower New York - Your mission.  Our Technology. 

Welcome to NPower NY! They had this program called TSC or Technology Service Corps!

TSC offers a free, 18-week intensive IT training program to low-income youth and young adults (ages 18-25), and then places graduates in full-time employment throughout New York City’s nonprofit, business and public sectors. Participants practice their new skills and give back to their communities by performing service internships and volunteer work for area nonprofits.

The program has experienced steady growth since it began, and consistent high (80%) graduation and placement rates. Because of its success, TSC has grown to serve as many as 111 students/year, in a dedicated Brooklyn-based training facility. As part of this evolution, TSC introduced a Microsoft professional certification component for each student. Finally, NPower will soon launch a new three-year plan to begin TSC chapters at other NPower affiliates.

We were fortunate to meet 30 individuals who were graduates of this program, who went on to serve in Internships, and careers in technology.    The enthusiasm and passion these folks brought brought a great smile to all of our faces as we’ve been in the seat they’re sitting in, and it’s nice to help share our experiences as to how we got to where we are today!

We started off our time here with introducing ourselves and then lead into an “Ask the Experts” panel so they could ask any questions as well as so we could share our stories and history with everyone.     The range of our technical and business history ranged with a number of us having started back as far as 1992, and even some epic success stories of excelling to stardom in as few as 5 years!   We ended up learning a lot about each other and ourselves in this little time together, which was one of the most honest and infinitely valuable moments on the trip thus far.

(Because frankly, I’m writing this blog… I’ll share one of my stories :)  I didn’t get the chance to share this full story to the group, bits and pieces sure.. and I also shared some one-on-one or in a one-to-many session with the graduates, so here goes! )

<begin story>

Every one of us on this trip are MCT’s, many of which have been MCT’s for years (a lot of them have been an MCT 11+ years) which is similar to my own experience on the matter.    Back in the 90’s Microsoft had this ‘offer’, whereby if you got your MCSE you would receive the benefit of a TechNet subscription and a number of support incidents FREE for one year!   Okay… I was younger back then… but I wasn’t any less geeky.   The prospect of a TechNet subscription to me was HUGE! MASSIVE! OMFG AMAZING!   So I did it.  In 11 days, I passed 7 Exams from Microsoft and earned myself the MCSE NT 4.0.   Sure, I knew it might do something for my career in the long-term, but in the short term.. I’d be getting me some software+support! (Booyah! :))

Certainly… this isn’t the type of story you hear from other MCSE’s, MCT’s and otherwise.   Although like almost everything in my life… my situation is drastically different.   I had been investing in myself and my knowledge of Microsoft Technologies going back 10 years prior to that point.   This was huge to me, and meant a lot to me; did I know that my initiative, drive and passion would turn around quickly into a rocketing career (which is STILL ROCKETING UPWARD) from doing that? No..   It was all about giving me access to more tools to play with. :)

What happened next though, was my pursuit of the MCT! It was 1998, I thought, wow I would –love- to teach, share and endow those I worked with and consulted in order to help train them and bring them forward, and wanted to become an MCT.    However, I am very literal to the point of fault sometimes (and especially then).  The guidelines for the MCT at the time required a Premium Certification (MCSE/etc) which I HAD! But it also required me to work for a Trainer/training company, something I was not exactly in the capacity to take on board at that time; thus my plan to become an MCT was put on hold.    —————–> FAST FORWARD to 2009!   While spending my time on the Get On The Bus Tour – First tour of Americas… I got to know the entire MSLearning team, and when I raised this legacy 10+ year old concern around becoming an MCT (something I wanted so to do) I was informed… “Yea, we got rid of that requirement ‘x’ years ago”.

There it was… Becoming an MCT was in my grasp!  In fact, more than just being in my grasp, I actually reached out and took hold and subsequently I’ve been an MCT Officially since 2009!

Now, for those of you who know me… you know that personally certification doesn’t mean a whole lot to myself, because I collect certifications like some people collect fine art.    And that analogy is king here, as they are indeed fine art in a manner of speaking; So much effort goes into their creation, and once you acquire them and hold them in your repository you have the experience and knowledge and are able to keep them forever!    However, not all certifications are created equal; and this distinction is important because frankly I don’t have room for EVERY one of my certifications on my business card or signature line.     If you do see my signature or business card you will see two certifications standing Prominent.  MCT and CISSP.


Hey, I’m a security guy, I invested a lot of myself in this… both in the test and the years of required experience to sit this exam, so this means a lot to me.

As a caveat to this, 3-6 months after completing my CISSP which I studied for 6-9 months and read 57 books to prepare for, I finally sat my GED getting the 99th percentile and thus successfully having documentation stating ‘I have a equivalent to a high school diploma’   Yea… That’s right, right after I completed something which people dedicate decades to :)


I think I pretty much explained that here.   Holding the MCT means a real lot to me, it means decades of dedication, education and pursuit; and I am proud to hold it today as I will to hold it for years to come.    It may not be for every one, but for me, it means a real lot, and I hope you are able to make a story for yourself like my very own above. :)

</end story>

So, while my story ended there… the stories of these individuals at NPower in the TSC Program is just going to continue going forward.    It was a great honor to have these fine people take time out of their day in order to come talk with us, listen to us speak, but more importantly to engage our minds and theirs in unison discussing things which we have such a passionate discourse for.    If you’re curious to what extent this was so passionately driven? :) The Red Team was assigned “Virtualization” as the topic of discussion to cover with them.   Just think about it.. Daniel Nerenberg, MVP of Application Virtualization, and me… the poster child for Virtualization ;)   Talk about the Perfecta!

While there were four teams that day, Red, Blue, Gold and Green all “competing” to win the challenge, we all ended up winners that day.   The opportunity to share with the students, and their attention and passion to join us and enable us to talk with them; All of these challenges are in their own right challenging because any single one of us would give our time to help these folks in an instant.   So, thank you so much NPower and Graduates of the TSC Program.   You made our time in NYC not only a productive one, but an amazing one we’re so happy to have been able to share with you!

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Posted in Careers, Certification, Charity, Education, Evangelist, ITGP, Microsoft | Comments (2)

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